[dropcap]L[/dropcap]iverpool’s season has petered out over recent weeks, with hopes of an FA Cup success and top-four finish all-but ended due to inconsistent form.
Brendan Rodgers has an unenviable job in that he has a massive club under this stewardship that demands a return to the glory days and a playing squad with a number of considerable egos.
Throughout the generations Liverpool as a city has been a footballing hub, with Anfield the breeding ground of top-notch players.
The Kop feel a real affinity to those that have come through the club’s youth ranks, with a long line of home-grown heroes.
Following one-club man Jamie Carragher’s retirement, Steven Gerrard is set to leave the Merseyside outfit this summer and end an action-packed career overseas.
Of the next generation of youth graduates that could fill the void left by these two talismanic figures, there is no shortage of talent – but questions of attitude and loyalty have started to emerge.
Gone are the days when footballer played for the love of their team, with the commercial distractions of the modern game infiltrating the sport.
Raheem Sterling’s future has been a major point of contention over recent months and documented tirelessly elsewhere – as such there is no need to evaluate the merits of him staying at Liverpool or forcing an exit on this platform.
However, with regards to Liverpool’s homegrown players, two pieces of noteworthy news have arisen over the last couple of days.
The first is Brendan Rodgers’ defiant claim that Liverpool will not sell Sterling this summer, regardless of whether he signs a new Anfield deal or not; the second the sickening news that Jon Flanagan is likely to be sidelined for at least another six months through serious injury.
In terms of the Sterling statement, Liverpool’s approach bucks the trend of player power and must be admired if it can be applied properly.
With no Champions League, the England international’s head is likely to be turned further this summer and the advise he receives behind closed doors is clearly with financial gain of all involved in mind.
The Reds and Rodgers have been here before; backtrack to the summer of 2013 and the tempestuous and outspoken Luis Suárez was campaigning his case for a move away from Anfield.
It would have been easy for the Merseysiders to have drawn the affair to a close by selling the Uruguayan and moving on, but given his brilliance on the pitch Rodgers and co stood firm.
The decision reaped massive dividends, with Suárez realising he was stuck at Liverpool, getting his head down and winning the PFA Player of the Year award following a swashbuckling season – one in which the Reds really should have been crowned English champions.
The example of Gareth Bale and Tottenham, who accepted a world-record fee for their talisman and subsequently floundered, was one that Liverpool avoided – at least for another 12 months.
As such, this summer Liverpool do not need to feel that they are at Sterling’s mercy; the player is under contract and it is the club that has the power to dictate his short-term destiny.
Keeping him at Anfield, even against his will initially, could be an ingenious move and help the Reds to succeed in their battle to regain Champions League football.
Come September 1st, with the 2015-16 season well underway and the transfer window closed, Sterling will have to do what Suárez did and get on with it or rot in the reserves.
In the case of Flanagan, the latest injury setback threatens the homegrown star’s future at the club.
The versatile defender is out-of-contract this summer and is set for another six-to-nine months rehabilitation before being able to play.
Flanagan may not be the mercurial talent that Sterling represents, but he could be the closest thing to the next Carragher or Gerrard that Liverpool have.
A determined, hardworking and honest player, given a share of luck and progression at the rate he showed last season and the youngster could be a future Reds legend.
Unlike Sterling, Flanagan will be desperate for a new deal and will hope that the club shows him loyalty by extending his contract despite the fact he has not played this season and is set to miss most of next term too.
Loyalty works both ways however, and the Reds investment in the defender now could see them tie-up a player that could potentially feature happily in the starting XI for years to come.
Although Carragher’s impact on the pitch has been passed and Gerrard’s powers have faded to some degree before his departure, they represented the heart and soul of the Merseyside club for years together.
Liverpool may well splurge on new players this summer, but this historic team needs its homegrown stars that feel that affinity to the club that is shared by the fans.
Whether Sterling or Flanagan will become that local hero for years to come remains to be seen, with the pair currently at opposite ends of the spectrum as one seemingly wants out and the other is desperate to stay.
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